RYAN Gauld has credited his sunshine break in Spain with helping recharge his batteries as the 18-year-old looks to become as influential in the last few weeks of the season as he was in the opening months.
“I feel full of energy again,” he said yesterday, after setting Dundee United on their way to a 2-1 Scottish Cup fifth round win against St Mirren with the opening goal. It was the Tannadice side’s first victory since a win over Ross County in December, eight games ago.
“It showed in my performances before that break that my energy levels were low and I was feeling drained,” Gauld added. “After that week away I feel I have recharged my batteries, and I now want to get back to what I was when we were on the winning run.”
Gauld and 17-year-old team-mate John Souttar were packed off to Spain in January by manager Jackie McNamara with orders to take it easy after their form suffered along with United’s at the end of last year.
Although Souttar returned to the team at the beginning of the month, Gauld started a game for the first time since New Year’s Day yesterday.
“As a young player you can learn more from a bad run than you can a good run,” he continued. “On a good run when everything is running smoothly you don’t have to think about much. When we were in that bad spell you have to think more about how you can change the game and pick yourself up and help the team out when they need you most. It is a big learning curve.”
Gauld believes that United can build on yesterday’s result and performance having already shown what they can do earlier in the season, when they strung together a run of six consecutive victories. “It is a young team. We have already proved what we can do,” he said. “I don’t think we had any excuses at the time not to show up and play as we could. It was down to teams pressing us and we did not know how to react; it took a bit of time to figure that out. Hopefully that is now us back to where we were and we can kick on.”
“We have done it before so there is no reason why we cannot do it again,” he added. “It is very strong squad that we have here. If players need a rest and fresh legs come in then they will do just as good a job as those who have been playing.”
McNamara stressed that it was always his intention to hand Gauld and Souttar a break after such a high-octane start to their United careers. “I have said many times they have played more games for the first-team than the under-20s,” he said. “That puts it into perspective. Most kids won’t get a chance until 19 or 20 – these lads have just turned 17 and 18 and you have to remind yourself of that.
“We got back to what we are good at, which is moving the ball quickly,” added McNamara. “Sometimes when things are not going right they think they have to beat two or three guys rather than let the ball do the work. They were playing more together. Last week [versus Partick Thistle] there were glimpses, but we did not manage to kill the game off. This week we got the second goal and managed to hold on to it.”
St Mirren manager Danny Lennon bemoaned the slow start made by his side at the beginning of each half.
“There were a few players who did not reach the level they can,” he said. “Unfortunately for us, in such a wonderful cup competition, you don’t get a second opportunity.”
However, he applauded new signing Eric Djemba-Djemba’s contribution before the former Manchester United midfielder was replaced with 20 minutes left. I was happy with Eric,” he said. “The first 15 or 20 minutes he was just trying to find his feet. But you can see his experience and knowledge. He has lovely soft feet. I thought that both he and [Jim] Goodwin, just before we equalised, dominated the game in terms of possession.”